Florida Premises Liability Based on a Third-Party’s Criminal Activity

Frequently, this blog discusses cases involving a landowner’s duty to keep their property in a reasonably safe condition, or to warn visitors of known hazards. Most often, the dangers we refer to in these cases involve some defect with the property itself. However, Florida premises liability cases are not limited to these types of situations.

In some cases, a landowner can be held responsible for the criminal acts of a third party. While these cases are often referred to as Florida negligent security cases, they are actually based on the traditional theories of negligence. Thus, under Florida law, to establish that a landowner is liable for the intentional criminal acts of a third party, the plaintiff must be able to prove that the landowner did not act with reasonable care to prevent such criminal conduct. Most importantly, this requires the plaintiff to establish that the third-party’s conduct was foreseeable.

A recent state appellate decision illustrates how courts view this type of premises liability claim, and the kind of evidence that may be required to establish a landowner’s liability.

The Facts of the Case

According to the courts’ opinion, the plaintiff visited the defendant convenience store to purchase some snacks around 1 a.m. After completing her purchase, the plaintiff made her way back to her car, where she was accosted by a man who shot and killed her. The plaintiff’s estate filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the store, arguing that it failed to take necessary precautions to prevent such an accident.

Evidence presented at trial showed that the store was located in a high-crime area, and that on more than one occasion, violent crimes had occurred immediately outside the store. It was also shown that the store had bullet-proof glass windows and a video surveillance system. The plaintiff argued that all these facts taken together showed that the store’s owner was aware of the potential for criminal acts in and around the store.

The store’s owner testified that he believed the store was in a safe area, and was not aware of the crimes that had occurred in the area. The owner explained that he owned several stores, and that as a general rule he installed bullet-proof glass windows and security systems in each store, regardless of where it was located.

The Court’s Opinion

The court found in favor of the defendant convenience store, and dismissed the plaintiff’s case. The court explained that the plaintiff was required to show that the defendant had “superior knowledge” of the harms that ultimately caused the plaintiff’s death. This could be done by showing that there were similar criminal acts in the immediate vicinity; however, the plaintiff must be able to show that the defendant knew about the crime. Here, the court reasoned that, while it was clear that crime had occurred based on the police reports presented by the plaintiff, the court was not able to attribute the knowledge of the police reports to the defendant, who specifically disclaimed any knowledge of the crimes. Absent proof that the defendant had knowledge of the previous crimes in the are, the court held that the plaintiff failed to show that the criminal acts of a third party were foreseeable.

Have You Been Injured on Another’s Property?

If you or someone you love has recently been injured while on another’s property, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for the injuries you have sustained. At the South Florida personal injury law firm of Friedman Rodman & Frank, we represent injury victims and their loved ones in all types of claims, including Florida premises liability cases. To learn more, call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

What Is an Attractive Nuisance under Florida Personal Injury Law?, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published February 21, 2019.

The Concept of Personal Jurisdiction in Florida Personal Injury Cases, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published March 7, 2019.

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